Toronto company serves up food using cool GPS services

Some like it hot. In fact most people do.

But consistently satisfying customers’ need for hot meals posed a bit of a problem for food delivery entrepreneur, Cameron Reid.

As the operations of his online meal delivery company – Orderit.Ca – expanded, getting food to customers, while it was still hot became harder to manage.

Orderit.Ca’s customer base extends across Toronto, Richmond Hill and Markham. Customers choose their restaurant from a list on the company site, add menu items to their online cart , and then checkout. The food is delivered to their doorstep.

Timely delivery hinges on effective and timely communication with the company’s fleet of drivers.

There was a time when Reid relied on voice communications via Mike phones from Edmonton-based Telus Corp. to keep in touch. This method worked when the business managed between 50 and 60 drivers at a time.

But as the business grew this changed.

“There are a lot of hungry people out there,” Orderit.ca’s founder says. Getting hot food to all of them through an ever expanding fleet of drivers required a more sophisticated and precise communications strategy.

So Reid took action.

When a Telus representative approached him about using the GPS-enabled Track and Dispatch Service – he saw this would be a good idea.

The service no longer requires Reid to give vocal instructions to drivers. But as the new system is compatible with the Mike devices his company was already using, these devices can be put to new use.

They now are the cornerstone of Track and Dispatch system that Orderit.Ca relies on.

Dispatchers transmit orders via the system to drivers closest to the restaurant from where the order has to be picked up.

Drivers’ handsets alert them to an incoming order and – with a press of a button – they can then accept or refuse the order. Dispatch is informed of the decision.

The system saves a great deal of time and labour.

For instance, dispatchers no longer need to call out to find which drivers are close to a restaurant.

The software automatically finds them and detects their status – either free to pick up or busy with another order.

Drivers are tracked on Microsoft Street maps with markers showing their position and speed.

“Our delivery goal is 60 minutes,” Reid says. “That allows the restaurant 30 minutes to prepare the food and about 30 minutes for the driver to pick it up and deliver it.”

The average delivery time has been cut down by an average of 10 minutes since Orderit.ca adopted the service about 10 months ago, he adds.

The new system has also boosted sales by one-third compared to a year ago.

There are now there are more options available for firms such as Orderit.ca that rely on Telus’ Track and Dispatch.

Earlier this week Telus announced that its four GPS tracking services are now available on the CDMA network.

This means, in addition to the Mike phones, Blackberrys and other smartphones access the service.

“Now you can track our entire suite of handsets, including smartphones,” says Karolyn Kennedy, wireless applications manager with Telus. The carrier network views itself as the market leader in offering up GPS services to businesses.

“Being able to track and monitor fleets is very valuable,” says Tony Olvet, vice-president of communications and segments research at Toronto-based consulting firm IDC Canada.
“If you think about some of the economic conditions right now, I expect this will be more appealing than ever before.”

Quicker delivery time is cited as a key benefit of Telus’ Track and Dispatch service. Another oft cited benefit is its potential to lower fuel costs.

As the software can track the speed of vehicles, head office can get drivers to slow down – when necessary – a fuel saving measure.

The Telus Fleet Tracker service gives a company such capabilities, Telus’ Kennedy says. This is done with a modem placed in each vehicle.

“If a vehicle is idling [for a long time], you can be alerted,” she says. Dispatchers also receive alerts when a vehicle is going over the speed limit. The software that comes packaged with the service can detect the speed limit of many different streets.

“Any business that has mobile machines or workers can benefit to some degree with GPS-enabled devices,” IDC’s Olvet says. One interesting feature of the services is a “geo-fencing” capability that allows companies to draw regions on a map they consider important. Then an alert is sent when the GPS trackers enter or exit the area.

Orderit.ca draws a geo-fence around a 40-meter perimeter at each of the restaurants it services, Reid says. A notification is sent to the system when a driver enters the area, and when they are leaving the area.

“This is really good because we can see if the driver is arriving on time, and then if the restaurant is preparing the food on time to get the orders out,” he explains.

Olvet advises companies considering a GPS service to look at the basic offerings of a provider such as network coverage, features included, and pricing.

“A wireless operator that clearly understands the business side of things with your specific pain points is the most important thing.”

Also, beware of variable data rate plans that make it hard to nail down the monthly cost of your service, he adds. Exceeding the cap on your data plan can be costly.

Orderit.ca pays $40 per unit per month for the Track and Dispatch service, Reid says. That includes a $25 fee for data exchange and $15 for access to the service. The company stays comfortably within the limit for data transfer.

“That’s probably [because] of our part-time workforce,” the company’s founder says. “They use it three or four nights a week. But if they were using it more often, that story might change.”

The GPS service is part of the company’s expansion plans, Reid says. This includes delivering other products such as flowers.

With about 22,000 customers who’ve used the service, Reid is looking at automating the entire dispatch ad order process to boost the amount of food served up each day.

His drivers could possibly double the number of orders they deliver in a night with such a capability, he says.

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